10 Ways to Boost Energy for Running

Many runners say that low energy is one of the main reasons why they don't run as frequently as they'd like. Chronic fatigue can derail your best attempts at a consistent running program. After all, who has the motivation to get out the door and push your limits when your body feels drained?

But it's not just before your run that you might experience frustrating fatigue. Some runners quit their workouts before they reach their goal mileage or perform at a lackluster pace because they don't have enough energy. And post-run exhaustion can be so severe that it affects your willingness to head out the door the next day.

The result is that your running consistency may suffer. And without consistency, your running pace, endurance, and race performance may suffer as well.

So how do you increase your energy so that you want to hit the pavement more often? Simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference. You might already practice some of these healthy habits, but if you can practice a few more, you may find that you gain a spring in your step that gives your running program a boost.

Exercise Regularly

Man stretching during a run in the mountains
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Ironically, regular exercise can improve your energy level so you are more motivated to run. Running, walking, and other forms of cardiovascular exercise help release potent feel-good hormones like endorphins. These hormones help boost energy even hours later.

If you are feeling sluggish and hesitant about a run later in the day, consider going for an energy-boosting walk earlier in the day. Even a 30-minute run can provide benefits.

If you still feel tired, consider a different form of exercise for the day. Just because you don't have the energy to run doesn't mean that you shouldn't exercise. Hop on an elliptical at the gym, swim a few laps at your local pool, or get some fresh air during an invigorating hike at a nearby park.

Warm-Up Properly

Exercise feels more exhausting when your body is not properly prepared. In addition, if your muscles aren't warmed up, you put yourself at higher risk for injury.

Runners practice different types of warm-ups before their workouts. But a general rule of thumb is that you should do an easy version of your workout activity for about five minutes before launching into more intense activity.

If you are someone who runs at a moderate to fast pace, you might start your workout with a slow jog. After five minutes, you might stop to do do a few running drills (butt kicks, long strides, or skips) to increase range of motion in your joints. After you complete 2–3 minutes of drills, you should be ready for a harder workout.

If your running pace is closer to a jog, start your workout with a fast-paced walk. This will help to warm up your muscles and increase your heart rate to prepare it for more vigorous activity.

Get Adequate Sleep

A good night's sleep is your body’s most natural and efficient way of refreshing itself. While everyone's sleep needs differ, 7–8 hours per night is a smart goal.

If you struggle with getting to sleep at night, practice good sleep hygiene. Try to follow the same healthy rituals each night so that your body gets into the habit of tuning out and slowing down.

For example, an hour before bed you might turn off your phone and other electronic distractions. You might read or take a shower to relax your body. Some people remove the television (and the phone charger) from their bedroom to create a quiet space. And cooling your sleep space might help, too.

Once you get into a healthy sleep routine, you will most likely feel more rested and energized throughout the day.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

When your body becomes dehydrated, your energy levels plummet. In fact, performance plummets, as well.

In a published report on hydration and health, researchers summarized the way that dehydration affects physical performance. They concluded that even under mild levels of dehydration, you are likely to experience a decrease in performance related to reduced endurance, increased fatigue, an inability to regulate body temperature, reduced motivation, and increased perceived effort.

So what is the best way to avoid these issues? Hydrate throughout the day—not just during and after exercise. However, the study authors who conducted the research referenced above note that recommendations for water intake are extremely complex and vary greatly.

For this reason, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends letting thirst be your guide. However, they also a guideline of 3.7 liters (15 cups) for the average adult male and 2.7 liters (11 cups) for the average adult female.

And remember that you can hydrate by drinking water, but also by consuming foods that contain water, such as fruits and vegetables.

Change Your Diet

A healthy, balanced diet will give your body the fuel it needs to perform daily tasks and exercise. As a runner, you may want to focus on your intake of nutritious macronutrients.

Protein

Try to include a lean protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, or low-fat dairy at every meal. High-protein foods will help keep you from getting hungry and getting low on energy between meals.

Smart Carbs

Healthy sources of carbohydrate are your body's preferred energy source. Pick whole grains, rather than refined grains whenever possible. They contain more fiber, take longer to digest, and they'll supply you with more energy than simple carbs.

Fill up on fresh fruits, rich green leafy vegetables as much as possible.

Healthy Fats

Fat can—and should—be part of a healthy balanced diet. But not all fats are the best choices. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends choosing poly- or monounsaturated fats (including plant-based oils, nuts, seeds, avocado) instead of saturated fats (from meat and full-fat dairy products) whenever possible to boost heart health.

Try to avoid sugary snacks that provide a quick boost of energy that is usually followed by an energy slump. These empty calorie foods also increase caloric intake without providing any valuable nutrition for your body

Get Enough Iron

Iron-deficiency anemia is fairly common, particularly in female athletes who have heavy periods. Anemia causes fatigue and reduced performance. If you frequently feel tired without an explanation, get your iron levels checked with a blood test.

To help prevent anemia, make sure your diet includes red meat, or iron-rich alternatives (dark-meat chicken or turkey, salmon, tuna) and iron-fortified cereal.

It's also important to include vitamin C in your diet because it helps with iron absorption. So try to include vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, tomatoes, berries, and broccoli, at every meal.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol—and especially drinking too much alcohol—can cause fatigue in a number of ways.

First, alcohol interferes with sleep. While you might be able to fall asleep faster with a glass of wine or a beer before bed, you are less likely to stay asleep. The result is that you wake up feeling tired.

Also, alcohol is a diuretic. That means that it reduces your body water and can cause dehydration. And as previously mentioned, dehydration can cause not only fatigue but also reduced athletic performance.

Lastly, alcohol is a source of empty calories. These calories can lead to increased body weight when not consumed in moderation.

The Centers for Disease Control defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. As a runner, you may find that you perform better and feel more energized with less alcohol than that.

Skip the Caffeine

While most of us rely on a cup of coffee or a caffeinated soda to provide energy, they can have the opposite effect.

Try to avoid caffeine, or try to limit yourself to one cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage a day. Consuming too much caffeine can make you feel weak or jittery. It also contributes to dehydration (along with alcohol, it is a diuretic)

You should especially be careful about having caffeine in the evening, as it can make you have trouble falling asleep or disrupt your sleep during the night.

Reduce Stress

Anxiety and stress can be huge energy killers. To combat stress, make an effort to fit relaxing activities, such as reading or listening to music, into your day.

You can also try aromatherapy. Taking the time to relax with lavender or another relaxing sent can calm your nerves and reduce stress. And if you need a quick boost of energy some smells like peppermint, citrus, or ginger have an energizing effect. Try lighting a candle or spraying a perfume infused with these scents to help you feel more alert.

Try Something New

Getting into a rut can zap your energy levels. Change things up by trying new foods, exercises, and seeking out new experiences to prevent boredom and keep you more alert and awake.

You can also try running at a different time of day if your current schedule isn't working well. For example, if you usually run after work at the end of the day but find that you skip workouts because you are tired, try running in the morning.

Many runners find that when they begin the day with a healthy activity, they have more energy to devote to other pursuits during the day.

Too many responsibilities in the morning? Pack a gym back and sneak away at lunchtime for a quick run. Breaking up the day with exercise can help reduce stress and help the day go by faster.

Care for Your Joints

Your body will feel more agile and energetic if you take care of the joints that help you move all day. Activities like yoga and pilates help to increase the range of motion in your joints, helping you to feel more flexible.

These activities are especially helpful for runners who usually exercise primarily in the sagittal plane (this is the plane of movement that involves flexing the legs forward and extending them behind you). By moving in other planes of movement, you help your joints to stay healthy.

Also, try to avoid long periods of sitting at your desk all day. f you're sitting at a desk all day, you're bound to feel bored and sluggish, and your joints get stiff.

To stay alert and keep your body healthy, try moving around every hour, even if it's just a trip to get a glass of water or look out the window.

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